Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 8, 2019.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 8, 2019.

ISTANBUL - Turkey's High Election Board has rejected a request by the ruling AK Party for all votes to be recounted in 31 of Istanbul's districts, a board member said on Tuesday, in a blow to the party's goal of a total recount in the city.

President Tayyip Erdogan, also AKP leader, said on Monday the local elections were marred by "organized crime" at ballot boxes in Istanbul, raising the possibility of re-running a March 31 vote in the city that handed a slim majority to the main opposition party.

Erdogan's comments, his strongest challenge yet to the election process in Turkey's largest city, briefly drove the lira down and also weighed on Turkish stocks.

The AKP's election board representative Recep Ozel told reporters after a board meeting that the board had only agreed to a recount of 51 ballot boxes, spread across 21 of the city's total 39 districts. Each ballot box generally contains several hundred votes.

The AK Party had also called for a full recount in the city's Buyukcekmece district, but the board has not yet ruled on that request, Ozel said. Vote recounts are continuing in the remaining districts.

The main Turkish opposition candidate for the coun
The main Turkish opposition candidate for the country's capital Ankara, Mansur Yavas, center, speaks to the media after he received the document confirming him as new mayor, from Bahattin Ozbas the head of the election board, in Ankara on April 8, 2019.

Erdogan's AK Party has already lost the mayoralty in the capital Ankara to the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), and has appealed several stages of the count in Istanbul which showed a narrow CHP victory.

The Islamist-rooted AKP is reeling from the potential loss of both cities, which the party and its predecessors have governed for a quarter of a century. Erdogan himself rose to prominence as Istanbul mayor in the 1990s before emerging as national leader.

Erdogan said the scale of electoral irregularities his party had uncovered meant the margin of votes between Istanbul's top two candidates, currently at less than 15,000 in a city of 10 million voters, was too narrow for the opposition to claim victory.